White Sox: Miguel Gonzalez’s Journey From Minors to Mexico to WBC

Sep 12, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez (58) pitches against the Cleveland Indians during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 12, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez (58) pitches against the Cleveland Indians during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports /

White Sox veteran was cut during Spring Training last year. After signing with South Siders, his career has seen a resurgence with an appearance in the World Baseball Classic.

It was at the beginning of May when the Chicago White Sox early-season magic was running out. After an incredible start to the season, the Sox found themselves in a form they hadn’t achieved since 2005.They were more than 10 games above .500 and their division lead was growing with every game.

Every Sox fan knows how that turned out. The bats froze and the pitching was in need of dire help. After starting off the season surprisingly as one of the league’s best, Mat Latos was designated for assignment in early May. Sox veteran John Danks did not even make it to May as his tenth season with the team only lasted four starts. In Danks’ four starts, he recorded four losses, 28 hits, 11 walks, 5 home runs, 18 earned runs and had an ERA of 7.25. Danks was released on May 3.

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The door was then open for the newly acquired Miguel Gonzalez. The 32-year old Gonzalez impressed the coaching staff in his five starts with Triple-A Charlotte, in which he displayed great control of the strike zone. His walks per 9 innings ratio was 2.1 and his strikeout per 9 innings ratio was 10.5. He allowed 11 earned runs, 5 home runs, 4 walks and struck out 25 in 5 starts.

Gonzalez’s first start with the White Sox was on April 25 and even though his performance was lackluster, the White Sox got the win. He pitched 5.1 innings, allowed 11 hits, five runs and struck out six batters against the American League powerhouse Toronto Blue Jays. His next start came on May 9 against the eventual AL win-leader Texas Rangers. This time Gonzalez was in the zone. He pitched 5.2 innings but only allowed three hits, one earned run and struck out four. It was at that point when Gonzalez became a regular in the White Sox starting rotation. Gonzalez soon became an interesting new addition to the rotation but where exactly did he come from?

The Mexican-native Gonzalez was first signed by the Los Angeles Angels in 2005 at the age of 20. After a few years in Double-A ball, he was then drafted by the Red Sox in the 2008 Rule 5 draft. In 2008, he actually pitched for the Venados de Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific League while he was recovering from an injury.

In 2009, Gonzalez was forced to miss the entire season because of Tommy John surgery. In 2010 and 2011, Gonzalez pitched for the Red Sox minor league affiliates, eventually reaching the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox while continuing to pitch for the Venados de Mazatlan during the winters. In 2011, he was released by the Red Sox and the following March he was scooped up by the Baltimore Orioles where his Major League career finally took off.

In his four seasons with the Orioles, he had 95 starts with a 39-33 record, 3.82 ERA and 417 strikeouts. He also had two great postseason starts for Baltimore. He pitched seven innings, struck out eight and allowed one earned run against the New York Yankees in 2012. The Yankees won that game 3-2. In 2014, Gonzalez pitched 5.2 innings, struck out four and allowed only one run against the eventual AL Champion Kansas City Royals. The Royals won that game 2-1.

While he wasn’t spectacular, he had shown some flashes of a decent back-end starter that every rotation needs. The White Sox showed a lot of interest in Gonzalez after they signed him only five days after the Orioles let him go last April. Even though it went under the radar, Gonzalez proved to be one of the better acquisitions of the season for the White Sox.

From July 1 to August 5, he had seven straight starts of at least 6.0 IP, three earned runs or less, and two walks or less. In five of those seven starts he had at least four punch outs or more. He saw his ERA drop from 5.17 to 4.09.

He wasn’t overpowering but he was consistent and he was consistently putting up great performances. Unfortunately, like the other great pitchers the Sox have, he went 1-3 in that stretch and the White Sox only won three of those seven starts. On August 11, he struck out two in a scoreless first inning but was forced out of a game due to a strained groin. He wouldn’t make his next start until Sept. 6 and he picked up right where he left off.

Four out of his last five starts of the season were superb.

  • Sept. 6 vs. DET – 6.1 IP, 0 ER, 4 SO, W
  • Sept. 12 vs. CLE – 6.2 IP, 3 ER, 4 SO, W
  • Sept. 17 vs. KC – 7.0 IP, 3 ER, 2 SO, L
  • Sept. 23 vs. CLE – 4.1 IP, 4 ER, 2 SO, L
  • Sept. 28 vs. TB – 8.1 IP, 0 ER, 5 SO, W

Overall, Gonzalez’s season line read: 5-8, 3.73 ERA, 1.237 WHIP, 135.0 IP, 95 SO.

This was not Gonzalez’s best season or even his second-best but his MLB experience and his flashes of said significance earned him a much-deserved and coveted spot on Team Mexico for the World Baseball Classic.

He had the tough task of not only starting against the currently undefeated powerhouse Puerto Rico team, but he was forced into a near must-win situation. His team was down a game after a heartbreaking comeback defeat against Italy where Mexico lost a 9-4 lead in the ninth inning. Not to mention that a stacked Venezuela team awaited Mexico on the last day of group play.

Gonzalez pitched as good of a game as most pitchers would in this WBC tournament. He went four innings, allowed four hits, three earned runs, walked three and struck out three. He was tagged with a loss after a rough and shaky start against an insane lineup of studs that include Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina, Javier Baez and Eddie Rosario.

In retrospect, to think of the entirety of Gonzalez’s career, seven years playing in the minors and in Mexico, making his debut at 28-years-old and Tommy John surgery, a start for his home country, where he spent his winters trying to improve year after year, is a success in itself even if he didn’t have his best stuff.

Next: Can Jacob May Start for White Sox This Season?

After being signed to a Major League team at age the of 20, he’s beginning to hit prime at the age of 32-years-old. For baseball fans, not just White Sox, it’s special to see a player keep working for over a decade and finally being rewarded. If the White Sox get the same performances from Gonzalez as they did last season, he will undoubtedly hold down the end of the rotation for the Boys in Black.